Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rainy day sapphics

Sapphics are one of the few classical forms that goes fairly naturally into English. One of the most delightful examples is this poem I found in an issue of The Formalist when I was in college. I liked it so much that I hand-copied it into my notebook.

by Erin Sweeten

Sappho eats, but only tomatoes, pulled from
Grecian urns she's filled to the brim with water
overnight to capture the deep old chill of
predawn's arrival.

Sappho sleeps, but only on mossy branches
autumn wind has broken from Mount Parnassus'
olive trees, old, shaggy and groaning under
goddesses gleaming.

Sappho bathes, but only by sloshing water
over heated stones in a roofless room where
stars and gods of planets enjoy the view, her
body undaunted.

Sappho walks, but only if lateness coaxes
owls and cats to show their enlightened eyes in
shadows laid aground by her hissing lamp up-
raised to the wildness.

Sappho lives, but only at certain moments;
clouds become her curly, untidy hair re-
leased to wind; some branches, her elbows crooked for
rocking the muses.

* * *

Also discovered in my notebook, from high school (maybe freshman year college?):

Sun rises from east hills like sleeping lions, stark sandy folds, bronze oaks in ravines, hot sky. Moon sets on west hills, green, tangled, dionysian, full of creatures, spillways of mist, apocalypse of fog.

...They show a rough straw-golden pelt....dry gilt stubble
And the oaks so exquisitely crookt

* * *

Have recently ordered several poetry books by Nada Gordon, Kay Ryan, Monica Youn, Rachel Wetzsteon. Folly is rather like those creatures of Hieronymus Bosch playing Dance Dance Revolution at Versailles.